July 2, 2014 archive

A Charitable Scam

To be fair, what the Red Cross will tell you is that if they have excess donations for a particular crisis they feel free, morally justified even, taking those funds and re-purposing them to fill needs just as urgent but less popular.

Now you may agree or disagree with that position on it’s own merits but what those of us who have been in the charity game know is that they spend lavishly on their own pet priorities and compensation and perks for their professional staff and board memembers.

And if you don’t believe me why are they acting like scam artists?

Red Cross: How we spent Sandy money is a “trade secret”

Justin Elliott (ProPublica), Salon

Saturday, Jun 28, 2014 08:00 AM EST

Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy?

The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request we filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a “trade secret.”

The documents include “internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information,” wrote Gabrielle Levin of Gibson Dunn in a letter to the attorney general’s office.

If those details were disclosed, “the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross’s business model for an increased competitive advantage,”  Levin wrote.

The letter doesn’t specify who the Red Cross’ “competitors” are.

Why Is the American Red Cross Acting Like Big Business and Not a Charity?

By: BrandonJ, Firedog Lake

Friday June 27, 2014 10:41 pm

The Red Cross is also under investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who said last year 42 percent of donations, at the time, raised by 89 different charities-the Red Cross among them-did not go victims of Hurricane Sandy. Schneiderman, along with others, was able to apply pressure to the Red Cross to donate an additional $6 million to the victims.

As mentioned in the article by Elliot, the use of “trade secrets” by the Red Cross is a peculiar argument by the foundation since charities ordinarily would not be expected to use the exemption. Indeed, the Red Cross is so protective of its structure that it hired Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hired to investigate the”Bridgegate” scandal, ultimately exonerating most of Christie’s staff after the questionable investigation.

The use of their “business model” is alarming considering this model failed after Hurricane Sandy hit the Mid-Atlantic region. Journalist Sam Knight covered its failures during Hurricane Sandy relief in a recent article highlighting the power Occupy Sandy held during the crisis. In one example, Knight revealed how the Red Cross failed to help move a 90-year-old woman to a warm place, yet it provided a hotel in Manhattan for its volunteers, costing $181,000.

Knight continued on the problems the Red Cross had when distributing aid to the residents affected by the hurricane.

“Just outside the church, another scene of clumsily administered relief was on display. At the nearest intersection, a Red Cross van announced, via megaphone, ‘hot soup!’ to no one in particular. Two blocks in either direction, locals were ladling warm meals to anyone seeking a hearty eat. The truck left not long after arriving. It fed no one,” Knight wrote.

It is difficult to believe any other charity would emulate the “business model” of the American Red Cross in future disasters considering its most recent failure. In fact, they would follow what Occupy Sandy did, as journalist Allison Kilkenny mentioned when reporting on their efforts.

What about Schneiderman’s investigation?

Well, what about it?

New York’s Schneiderman Accepts Red Cross’ “Trade Secrets” Excuse to Hide Sandy Spending

by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Posted on July 1, 2014

It’s not clear what to make of an attorney general who opens an investigation and then accepts lame excuses for maintaining secrecy from its target, in this case, the American Red Cross. We’re flagging this example because it exemplifies an effort by organizations to use “trade secrets” as a pretext for hiding more and more of their dealings with governments. This is absurd, since the premise of Federal and state Freedom of Information Act laws is that government records should be open to the public, and that includes records of entities doing business with government agencies. In other words, if you want to have government bodies as your customers, one of the costs of doing business is having your formal interactions with them subject to public review.

The Red Cross has come under repeated criticism for poor performance at its core mission, disaster relief. The charity has an unusual quasi-public role by virtue of obtaining a Congressional charter in 1905 develop a system of emergency relief and disaster prevention. Thus, the Red Cross, as a charity, has long been a monopoly provider of national first/early responder services. No other charity has a similar stature or scope. While the Red Cross also receives a limited amount of funding from FEMA, the far more important aspect of its relationship with government is the considerable prestige and competitive advantage it has gained through its charter, which it had obtained through able performance under its founder Clara Barton in providing assistance in major calamities in the 19th century, such as the Great Fire of 1881 and the Jonestown Flood of 1889. The Red Cross also has a formal role in conjunction with FEMA in providing “mass care, emergency assistance, temporary housing” and other services.

Proof of the Red Cross’ de facto monopoly position comes through the fact that there is no organization to take over its role as its performance has faltered. The Red Cross was criticized for slow responses and waste of funds in 9/11 and Katrina. Congress forced governance changes on the Red Cross in 2007, but that was insufficient to lead to better results in Hurricane Sandy. As New York City readers may know, Occupy Sandy ran rings around the Red Cross in the hardest-hit areas here, particularly Staten Island.

That of course raised the obvious question: the Red Cross had solicited aggressively for funds during and shortly after the hurricane. Where did the $300+ million go? Why weren’t the relief services delivered well?

But the troubling part is that Schneiderman, who has proven repeatedly to be an overly cautious prosecutor, took any of the Red Cross’ claims seriously. “Trade secret” status is based on the ability for competitor to do economic damage with the information. The only information in general that a charity possesses of this nature is related to donor giving: who the big donors are, what their giving patterns have been, and what sort of success they’ve had with various types of fundraising campaigns. Particularly for an organization as large and presumably as sophisticated as the Red Cross, that sort of know-how might be valuable, if it really were unique, as opposed to well-known and widely used solicitation and donor-grooming methods.

But with the Red Cross, you have to look at its monopoly provider status. Who can compete with them? The idea that some other organization is hot on its heels and eager to copy its methods is barmy. The closest direct competitor is Médecins Sans Frontières, which is not a player in US disasters, and local charities, which lack the clout and reach. So any claims regarding possible competitive harm should be regarded with extreme skepticism.

Yet Schneiderman took way too much of the Red Cross’ demand for special treatment at face value, and agreed to shield material related to “business strategies, internal operational procedures and decisions, and the internal deliberations and decision-making processes that affect fundraising and the allocation of donations.” I guarantee that like the private equity descriptions of their business strategies in limited partnership agreements that were released to the public, that there’s no special sauce in that, nor in anything else save possibly fundraising. The experts ProPublica quoted in its article also though the Red Cross claims were indefensible.

The good news is that fighting disclosure seems to have backfired on the Red Cross. As Barry Ritholtz at Bloomberg wrote.

As poor as the Red Cross’ conduct is, it should also be shame on Schneiderman for enabling this unjustifiable position. His knuckling under to the Red Cross extends the bad precedent of having private equity contracts with government investors exempted from public scrutiny. Contract bids and terms are also competitively valuable, yet heretofore, no one would have thought it acceptable to keep them from the media and interested citizens. But public officials like Schneiderman are all too willing to accede to private sector secrecy demands, no matter how ludicrous, which will make it easier for these organizations to hide incompetence and looting.

Now don’t get me wrong.  They do a great job at collecting blood and Water Safety instruction, but looting is not too strong a word.

50 Years After Freedom Summer

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”). Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.

This year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer, also known as the Mississippi Project, a campaign to register as many African-American voters as possible, especially in the state of Mississippi. That campaign was marked with violence by the locals directed against the outsiders. During the course of the 12 week campaign:

  • four civil rights workers were killed (one in a head-on collision)
  • at least three Mississippi blacks were murdered because of their support for the civil rights movement
  • our people were critically wounded
  • 80 Freedom Summer workers were beaten
  • 1,062 people were arrested (out-of-state volunteers and locals)
  • 37 churches were bombed or burned
  • 30 Black homes or businesses were bombed or burned

The worst of the violence was the murder of three young civil rights workers, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, by members of the Klu Klux Klan.

When the men went missing, SNCC and COFO workers began phoning the FBI asking for an investigation. FBI agents refused, saying it was a local matter. Finally, after some 36 hours, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered an investigation. FBI agents began swarming around Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney had been arrested. For the next seven weeks, FBI agents and sailors from a nearby naval airbase searched for the bodies, wading into swamps, and hacking through underbrush. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover went to Mississippi on July 10 to open the first FBI branch office there.

Throughout the search, Mississippi newspapers and word of mouth perpetuated the common belief that the disappearance was “a hoax” designed to draw publicity. The search of rivers and swamps turned up the bodies of eight other black men. Herbert Oarsby, a 14-year old youth, was found wearing a CORE T-shirt. Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore had been expelled from Alcorn A&M for participating in civil rights protests. The other five men were never identified. On August 4, 1964, the bodies of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman were found buried beneath an earthen dam.

Now five decades later, there is a concerted effort by the right wing, most white Republican, faction to end all that was achieved for equality that summer. At Esquire’s Politics Blog, Charles Pierce summarized why now more than ever we must get out the vote:

Over the weekend, I watched the PBS documentary on Freedom Summer, the effort 50 years ago to register African Americans to vote in the state of Mississippi, the effort that cost so many people so dearly, especially the families of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Mickey Schwerner, who were beaten and shot to death, and buried in a dam, because the state of Mississippi had local police forces shot through with the Ku Klux Klan.  Now, five decades later, with a Republican House far gone into nihilistic vandalism, and with the Senate hanging in the balance, and a Supreme Court one septuagenarian’s heartbeat away from a return to the golden days of the last Gilded Age, and a Democratic president in the White House on whom those responsible for the previous three phenomena have painted a bullseye, we keep hearing about how hard it is going to be for the Democratic party to turn out its voters this fall to take advantage of the opportunities for which Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner gave their lives, and did so in my lifetime, not in a distant antebellum episode in some backwater.

Racism is not dead in America. It is very much alive. In a detailed article at Huffington Post, Braden Goyette and and Alissa Scheller prove that racism is a live and well and we, as Americans, are a long way from being post racial.

In his 2007 majority opinion limiting the use race to desegregate schools, Chief Justice John Roberts said “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”  Seven years later, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent taking Roberts to the woodshed over the court’s upholding the affirmative action ban (pdf) adopted by Michigan’s voters. Calling Robers “out of touch with reality, she read her dissent aloud:

In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter.

We need to push all our representatives in local city and town councils, state legislatures and Congress to remember what so many gave their blood, sweat, tears and lives to win, Freedom for All.


The Breakfast Club 7-2-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

On This Day In History July 2

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 2 is the 183rd day of the year (184th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 182 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is the midpoint of a common year. This is because there are 182 days before and 182 days after (median of the year) in common years, and 183 before and 182 after in leap years. The exact time in the middle of the year is at noon, or 12:00. In the UK and other countries that use “Summer Time” the actual exact time of the mid point in a common year is at (1.00 pm) 13:00 this is when 182 days and 12 hours have elapsed and there are 182 days and 12 hours remaining. This is due to Summer Time having advanced the time by one hour. It falls on the same day of the week as New Year’s Day in common years.

On this day in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the historic Civil Rights Act in a nationally televised ceremony at the White House.

In the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The 10 years that followed saw great strides for the African-American civil rights movement, as non-violent demonstrations won thousands of supporters to the cause. Memorable landmarks in the struggle included the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955–sparked by the refusal of Alabama resident Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a city bus to a white woman–and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech at a rally of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., in 1963.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”). Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.

Late Night Karaoke

So I Took a Few Days off

I skipped a few days in tending to the colt. I was assured that he was being cared for yet today I go to check on him and his entire personality has changed. Last I saw him I could crawl under his belly, walk behind him even lay across his back. I could wash his wounds and receive a thankful gesture. There is this other guy that was going to continue and I went with him tonight just to judge the progress. As soon as we drove up the horse started raising hell. I stood back and watched, the horse hates him. He is to rough he does not let the horse have his space and is very controlling which never works on an 800 pound horse. I had him “greenbroke” and this dude made it where I must start from scratch.

I hate dumbfucks

Don’t get me wrong I like the dude but he has no clue. People talk and say they know about things that are beyond their comprehension to impress others.